The Carolina Panthers are facing some uncertainty at the quarterback position this week as starter Teddy Bridgewater is trying to recover from a MCL sprain that he suffered this past Sunday vs Tampa Bay. He was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, wearing a red non-contact jersey and has not done much aside from working on throws.
Former West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and former XFL star P.J. Walker have been splitting the reps this week in preparation for the team's game vs the Detroit Lions this Sunday. The thinking is that head coach Matt Rhule will go with Walker considering his long history with him dating back to his days at Temple. With that said, Rhule has a history with Grier as well going back to their time in the Big 12.
Rhule faced Grier twice in college and both games went in Grier's favor with a 38-36 win in 2017 and a 59-14 blowout in 2018. In those two games, Grier threw for a combined 728 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rhule doesn't forget those Big 12 showdowns vs Grier and West Virginia and is part of why he is confident in his future.
"My recollection of Will is that he was always cool, calm, and collected. He ran that team [West Virginia], they signaled the plays into him and then he signaled them out to everybody. I remember when the draft process was going on, me saying, boy, for a spread quarterback he was as PRO style as you could be because he was checking plays, he was checking RPO's and doing all those things. And that ability, to me, to get to the right play and communicate, that's a lot of playing quarterback in the National Football League."
Grier struggled in his 1.5 games that he appeared in last season as a rookie completing 28 of 52 passes for 228 yards and four interceptions. Earlier this season, Grier admitted that he wasn't a good backup quarterback a year ago and that the offense was also difficult for him to pick up on.
"Last year was tough for a lot of different reasons, but at the end of the day, I used it as a learning experience," Grier stated. "Obviously, this is the first time that I’ve ever been a backup and there’s a lot of things that kind of go with that, I learned. That’s part of the experience and part of my personal journey and growth and career. I’m glad it happened, I’m glad I got the experience - it made me better.
"I think, you know, not to say last year didn’t fit my style. I mean, they’re different. I think the way the offense is called is a little different. Last year was new to me the way it was called. The plays and stuff were kind of the same, but I had trouble last year just calling plays. It makes more sense to me to just call the play, which frankly just makes it less thinking. But as far as the style goes, I think our style, our identity is still kind of growing. We’re still kind of learning what that is this year and I kind of pride myself on being able to do anything. I think that’s the attitude I’ve got to have. At the end of the day, Teddy is the starter and it's really about him and what he’s comfortable with. I’m comfortable with anything. I’ve got to be ready to go if my number is called and that’s kind of the way I treat it.”
Rhule talked about Grier's progression on Thursday and stated that there hasn't been any problems with him picking up the offense under this coaching regime. Last year, Grier was coached by Ron Rivera and Scott Turner who run a very different offense compared to that of Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
"There's no issues with him grasping onto what we do. He's a worker, he's a grinder. He comes in and prepares at a high level," Rhule said of Grier. "He gets extra reps, he stays out after practice, he's always working. His work ethic and his mental toughness are real strengths that you saw in college and you see them now. You can see him week in and week out just getting better and better and better at it."
Despite Rhule's confidence in Grier, he also has a tremendous amount of confidence in P.J. Walker. The Panthers' medical staff likely won't make a determination on Bridgewater until later in the weekend and Grier is not a lock to start if Bridgewater is unavailable.
"We probably wouldn't say anything about it until Saturday or Sunday. Both guys are doing a good job. We just walked off the practice field, I thought both guys yet again today did a nice job and both guys have good energy in the huddle. Both guys are grinding away and we're convinced that both guys can be winning quarterbacks in the National Football League. So we'll go all the way through the week and if Teddy doesn't go, then we would take the guy that we feels gives us the best chance to win this week."
The Panthers and Lions kickoff this Sunday at 1 p.m. on FOX.
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